Bureau decides to retire 'City of the Arts' slogan

Decision raises eyebrows within creative community

Lawrence won't be called the "City of the Arts" anymore. At least not by the Lawrence Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The 2-year-old slogan emblazoned on banners downtown and elsewhere seemed to have caught on. But the head of the bureau said Lawrence's official promoters won't use the moniker anymore. And that's left some arts supporters befuddled.


Journal-World File Photo

Despite banners to the contrary, Lawrence no longer will be the "City of the Arts," at least not in the eyes of the Lawrence Convention & Visitors Bureau. The bureau has adopted the motto "The Art of a City" in its promotional materials. "City of the Arts" was adopted two years ago, prompting the bureau to display banners, such as this one being hung around the city in 1999 by Chris O'Neill of Star Signs & Graphics Inc.

"I liked the old slogan � I thought it captured the spirit of the city," said Mary Doveton, artistic managing director of Lawrence Community Theatre. "I thought it said something special."

Bureau director Judy Billings said that, aside from the banners, her organization hadn't really used the slogan in promotions. The bureau's Web site, however, features the slogan prominently.

"We didn't use it for much of anything, officially," she said. "The artists picked up on it, but we didn't use it for an advertising campaign."

The bureau started intermittently flying the "arts" banners downtown in January 1999. A year later, the Cultural Tourism Committee of the Roundtable of Arts and Culture made the phrase the centerpiece of its campaign to promote the city's museums, cultural events, educational opportunities and entertainment.

"We did that because it was one way to pull everything together," said Lisa Patterson, co-chair of the roundtable's marketing committee. "I'm sure some of the individual (art) galleries used it; we made the logo available to everybody."

Somewhere along the line, the bureau decided to go in a different direction. Billings declined to explain how that happened, saying she hadn't yet discussed the matter with the Lawrence Convention & Visitors Bureau Advisory Board.

A new slogan has been adopted by the bureau, however. Its newest visitor guide now promotes Lawrence as "The Art of a City."

Some arts supporters were cool to the new tagline.

"What does that mean?" asked Jeff Ridgeway, a member of the Lawrence Arts Commission. "Sometimes the idea is to make something sound stupid so it gets people's attention. But I don't know that's necessary for a city that's a little more intellectually astute than others."

"I loved 'The City of the Arts,' mostly because that's what Lawrence is," said Maria Martin, director of the Southwest and More gallery. "Maybe this is saying the same thing. It comes across a little awkward."

Ann Evans, director of the Lawrence Arts Center, had a different take.

"I love the fact that they're concerned about the arts and want it in their tagline," Evans said. "Either way is great. I like both phrases."

Billings said the City of the Arts banners may not fly again, but only because reduced tourism in Lawrence has resulted in lower subsidies to her organization; no other banners may fly either.

She also said the bureau's decision didn't have to influence other arts marketing efforts in town.

"If they want to continue to use 'City of the Arts,'" she said, "they can continue."


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